Joseph Pratt, Bricklayer

When Thomas Howlett (1678—1759) was appointed master Bricklayer of His Majesty’s Works in 1736 in the place of Thomas Churchill, deceased, he shared the appointment with Joseph Pratt.  Thomas Howlett had been bricklayer to the Prince of Wales, and doubtless owed his new position to that patronage.  What of Joseph Pratt?

Joseph Pratt, junior, (1697—1768) was a well-respected bricklayer, being Master Bricklayer to the Office of Ordnance and was son to Joseph Pratt (d. 1750) also a bricklayer.  In fact both father and son in turn rose to become Masters of The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers of the City of London, in 1721 and 1740 respectively.  Possibly of even more importance, Joseph Pratt had married Thomas Churchill’s only child, Elizabeth (1707-1768).

Joseph Pratt senior and his wife Elizabeth had (at least) nine children, but seven of them died in infancy, including the last four, all of whom died at less than 6 months of age. The survivors were James and Joseph.  James Pratt (1705—1740) also became a bricklayer “to his Majesty”, but died in 1740 apparently without leaving any wife or children.  Joseph Pratt junior and Elizabeth had four children who lived to adulthood, three girls and a boy.

The son, Thomas Pratt, also became a bricklayer, and, on the death of Thomas Howlett in 1759, succeeded in his place as joint Master Bricklayer to the Board of Works with his father. Thomas Pratt married on 23 June 1760 Mary Wright, daughter of Stephen Wright of the Office of Works, at that point Deputy Surveyor. Thomas and Mary had two children, Joseph and Charlotte before Thomas died in 1762. After his son’s death, Joseph Pratt held the office alone until his own passing in 1768, upon which the office was abolished.

Joseph Pratt and his son Thomas both married into the Office of Works. The daughters also married into similar circles. Sarah married James Morris, Master Carpenter of the Board of Ordnance, son of Roger Morris, Master Carpenter to the Board of Ordnance. Sarah died in 1760 without leaving any children. Elizabeth, who also sadly died young in 1759, married George Mercer, Master mason, and left several children.

The only one of Joseph Pratt’s children to outlive him was his daughter Ann.  She married outside of the craftsmen group, to a well-off tradesman, John Barrett, wax-chandler to His Majesty.

We shall have more to say of the interconnections of these families at the top of their trades in mid-eighteenth-century London.

The Bricklayers Labours

In 1734 and 1735, Robert Tatersal of Kingston-upon-Thames, spurred on by the success of Stephen Duck, produced two slim volumes of poetry, titled The Bricklayer’s Miscellany. The poems are on diverse subjects, but in “The Bricklayers Labours” he spoke uniquely of the daily life of the artisan.

At length the soft Nocturnal Minutes fly,
And crimson Blushes paint the orient Sky;
When by a kind of drowsy Stretch and Yawn,
I ope my Eyes, and view the Scarlet Dawn;
But stealing Sleep my Vitals still surprise,
And with a slumb’ring Softness seal my Eyes,
Till open Light corroborates the Day,
And through the Casement darts his signal Ray;
When up I start, and view the eastern Sky,
And by my Mark find Six o’Clock is nigh:
Then hanging on my Thread-Bare Coat and Hose,
My Hat, my Cap, my Breeches, and my Shoes;
With Sheep-skin Apron girt about my Waste,
Down Stairs I go to visit my Repast;
Which rarely doth consist of more than these,
A Quartern Loaf, and half a Pound of Cheese;
Then in a Linnen Bag, on purpose made,
My Day’s allowance o’re my Shoulder’s laid:
And first, to keep the Fog from coming in,
I whet my Whistle with a Dram of Gin;
So thus equip’d, my Trowel in my Hand,
I haste to Work, and join the ragged Band:
And now each one his different Post assign’d,
And three to three in Ranks completely join’d;
When Bricks and Mortar eccho’s from on high,
Mortar and Bricks, the common, constant Cry;
Each sturdy Slave their different Labours share,
Some Brickmen call’d, and some for Mortar are:
With sultry Sweat and blow without Allay,
Travel the Standard up and down all Day;
And now the Sun with more exalted Ray,
With glowing Beams distributes riper Day,
When amidst Dust and Smoke, and Sweat and Noise,
A Line, a Line, the Foreman crys, my Boys;
When Tuck and Pat with Flemish bound they run,
Till the whole Course is struck, compleat, and done:
Then on again, while two exalts the Quoin,
And draws the midmost Men another Line.
The Course laid out, when thro’ the fleeting Air,
A solemn Sound salutes the willing Ear;
When universal Yo-ho’s echo strait,
Our constant Signal to the Hour of Eight.
And now precipitant away we steer,
To eat our Viands, and to get some Beer;
Where midst the Clamour, Noise and smoky Din
of Dust, Tobacco, Chaws, and drinking gin,
The short Half-hour we merrily do spin.
When for Desert some with their Sun-burnt Fists,
Cram in a Chaw of Half an Ounce at least,
And then to sweep the Passage clean within,
Wash down their Throats a Quartern full of Gin.
And now again the Signal greets our Ear,
We’re called to Book, must at the Bar appear:
When the grim Host examines what we’ve done,
And scores sometimes devoutly two for one;
And now refresh’d again we mount on high,
While on calls Mortar, others Bricks do cry;
And then a Line, a Line’s the constant Sound,
By Line and Rule our daily Labour’s crown’d.
While to divert the sult’ry Hours along,
One tells a Tale, another sings a Song:
And now the Sun with full Meridian Ray,
With scorching Beams confirms the perfect Day.
Full Twelve a Clock the Labourers cry Yo-ho,
When some to Sleep, and some to Dinner go:
Some that have Victuals eat; others who’ve none,
Supply the Place with Drink and Gin alone.
Mod’rate in Food, but in good Beer profuse,
Which for the Heat we modestly excuse.
And now the gliding Minutes almost gone,
And a loud Noise proclaims the Hour of One;
Again we re-assume the dusty Stage,
The Mortar chas’d again we do engage.
This the most tedious Part of all the Day,
Full five Hours Space to toil without Allay:
Now parch’d with Hear, and almost chok’d with Dust,
We join our Pence to satiate our Thirst:
At length the Western Breezes gently play,
And Sol declining moderates his Ray;
Now the approaching welcome Hour draws near,
And now again the Signal glads our Ear;
The happy Hour we waited for all Day,
At length arrives our Labours to repay.
And now the Tools reposited with Care,
Until the morning Rays again appear;
Some homewards bend, some to the Alehouse steer,
Others more sober feast on better Cheer.
But when the Days contract an dwint’ry Hours rise,
And sable Clouds and Fogs invest the Skies,
When Frost and Cold congeals the Atmosphere,
And Trees disrob’d and hoary Fields appear;
When all the Earth in Ice and Snow is bound,
And nought but Desolation all around,
Then haples me! I wander up and down,
With half an Apron, wond’rous greasy grown!
With anxious Looks my Countenance is clad,
And all my Thoughts are like the Winter, sad!
This scene of Life corrodes y troubled Mind,
I seek for Work; but none, alas! can find;
Sometimes, by Chance, I have a Grate to set,
To hang a Copper, or a Hole repleat;
A Day or two to exercise my Skill,
But seldom more reluctant to my Will:
And this I pass the tedious Winter on,
Sometimes Repast I have, and sometimes none;
Till cheerful Phoebus with a grateful Ray,
Thro’ vernal Airs explores his will Way;
Dispells all Cares, and gladdens every Vein,
And all the joyous Scene revolves again.

His poems do not seem to have been successful.

Campbell on Bricklayers

In his London Tradesman, Campbell works through the building trades in Chapter 31, beginning with the architect and the stone mason, continuing:

The Bricklayer comes next under our Consideration. He differs from the Stone-Mason as much as his Materials; his Skill consists, considering him as a mere Bricklayer, only in ranging his Brick even upon the Top of one another, and giving them their proper Beds of Cements; for it is suppos’d, the Architect directs him in every thing related to Dimensions. But a Master-Bricklayer thinks himself capable to raise a Brick-House without the Tuition of an Architect: And in Town they generally know the just Proportion of Doors and Windows, the Manner of carrying up Vents, and the other common Articles in a City-House, where the Carpenter, by the Strength of Wood, contributes more to the standing of the House than all the Bricklayer’s Labour. He works by the Yard; that is, is paid by the Employer so much for every Yard of Brick-Work, either with or without the Materials, and is a very profitable Business; especially if they confine themselves to work for others, and do not launch out into Building-Projects of their own, which frequently ruin them: It is no new Thing in London, for those Master-Builders to build themselves out of their own Houses, and fix themselves in Jail with their own Materials. A Journeyman-Bricklayer has commonly Half a Crown a Day, and the Foreman of the Work may have Three Shillings, or perhaps a Guinea a week: But they are out of Business for five, if not six Months in the Year; and, in and about London, drink more than one third of the other Six.

Campbell is not wrong to warn of the dangers of speculation. During the rapid expansion of London and Westminster in the eighteenth century, a successful bricklayer may set himself up as a builder and build a row of houses speculatively.  Such projects did not always end well.

Mortimer, in the Universal Director, while not warning of bankruptcy, does illustrate the recent (in 1763) changes in funding house construction:

But of late years the capital Masters of the two branches of House and Ship Carpentry, have assumed the name of Builders, and Ship-Builders; for this reason, because they make an estimate of the total expence of a House or a Ship, and contract for the execution of the whole for the amount of their estimate; so that they take upon themselves the providing of all materials, and employ their own Masons, Plumbers, Smiths, &c. whereas formerly it was the custom form gentlemen and merchants to apply to the several masters in each branch, and employ them in executing their plans: this indeed is sometimes the case at present, but very rarely, particularly with regard to Houses, whole streets having lately been erected by Builders.

Related Posts:

Thomas Howlett, Bricklayer

Campbell on Painting

Campbell on Education

Campbell on Mathematical Instrument Makers

Thomas Howlett, Bricklayer

The first George Warren, master carpenter at Kew, married local girl Elizabeth Howlett (1703—1766), daughter of a bricklayer. However, this description is a little misleading.

The Warrens and Howletts both owned land around Kew Green and as the royal family became more interested in Kew and Richmond and expanded their building works, the Howletts prospered.  Elizabeth’s father, Thomas Howlett (1678—1759) became bricklayer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1736, together with Joseph Pratt, he was appointed Master Bricklayer of His Majesty’s Works. Thomas Howlett and Joseph Pratt were thus in charge of all brickwork in the royal residences.

Along with his daughter Elizabeth, Thomas Howlett also had a son, Thomas (1704—1737), but these are the only children of his that I know about.  Thomas junior was also a bricklayer, continuing the family line of work.  When Thomas died, he left a house “in the Occupation of Lady Judith Coote” to his father for life and then to his sister and his brother-in-law George Warren.  George Warren died in 1755 and the next year his father-in-law made a will with provisions for the children of his sister and for his grandchildren.  The eldest, George, was given £100 and three of his siblings £200 each.  However, George and Elizabeth had wisely named one of their children Thomas Howlett Warren (1733—1777); he got the bulk of the estate.  While the younger George was a carpenter, and his brother William a carpenter and wheelwright, Thomas Howlett became a gentleman.  By the time of his death in 1777 his estate included at least 15 buildings at Kew, including the Rose and Crown pub and, rather charmingly, “a large workshop adjoining the stable, occupied by his Majesty, now in the possession of Mrs. Warren”.

George Warren, Carpenter at Kew

Those who secured a craftsman position with the government typically had a position for life, and possibly for generations.  Such was the case with George Warren, carpenter at Kew.

The first of the Warren family to appear was George Warren (1698—1755). He married Elizabeth Howlett, daughter of a local bricklayer and became master carpenter at Kew. Little is known about his life, but he makes a brief appearance in the 1730s when Frederick, Prince of Wales, acquired the White House at Kew and began extensive renovations under the direction of architect William Kent. George Warren was the carpenter and his name appears in the accounts.

WhiteHouseAtKew

White House at Kew

George and Elizabeth had at least nine children, although five of them died young.  However, the second son, George (1731—1774) continued in the family line of work, and after his father died in 1755, he became carpenter and joiner at Kew. George Warren junior was thus the head carpenter at Kew when Kirby was appointed Clerk of the Works. The younger George Warren is best known nowadays for building the spiral staircase for the pagoda at Kew Gardens.

Pagoda (interior)

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

George Warren married Anne Stringer (1734—1784) of Richmond in 1759 and together they had four children at Kew, where he was also churchwarden. However, when George Warren died in 1774 (just a month after Kirby), his eldest son, George Thomas Warren (1765—1823) was not yet ten and too young to succeed the position. The Board of Works recorded in its laconic way:

August 5th 1774

The Board being acquainted that Mr. George Warren late Carpenter and Joiner at Kew House is dead

Order’d that Kemble Whatley do succeed him as Carpenter and James Arrow as Joiner at Kew House.

George’s widow Anne kept on the carpentry business in Kew Green and on her death in 1784 it passed down to her son George. George Thomas Warren appears in the Office of Works accounts as a joiner doing various work around Kew, including repairs to the Pagoda in 1811 and 1813.  George Thomas went into partnership with his brother Henry and they expanded as builders and carpenters based in Grosvenor Square as well as Kew, but it seems they expanded too much for they went bankrupt in 1815 and the case was still rumbling on in 1829, long after George’s death.

 

Thomas Worsley’s Letters Patent

The warrant appointing Joshua Kirby and his son William joint Clerk of the Works at Richmond and Kew was a comparatively modest affair. The more senior the position, the fancier the document. The Hogarth Trust has a copy of the Letters Patent appointing William Hogarth Sergeant Painter, and has published a transcription of the text. Soon after his accession to the throne George III began his reorganization of the Office of Works with the appointment of Thomas Worsley to Surveyor General, the senior position in the department. The text granting his appointment on December 15 1760 was suitably florid:

George the third by the Grace of God of Great Britain France & Ireland King, Defender of the Faith &c. To all to whom these Presents shall come Greeting. Whereas Our late Royal Grandfather George the Second of Glorious and happy Memory did by his Letters Patent under his Great Seal of Great Britain bearing the date at Westmr. 30th day of December in the 17th Year of his Reign; Give and Grant unto his trusty and wellbeloved Henry Finch Esqr. the Office of Surveyor of his Works within his Tower of London and in all and singular his Honours Castles Lordships and Manors which his said late Majesty usually reserved for his Repair and abode or which he should in time then to come Appoint for his Repair and Abode. To hold the same by himself or his sufficient Deputy or Deputys, such Deputy or Deputys to be first Approved of by the Commissioners of his said late Majesty’s Treasury or High Treasurer for the time being together with the Wages & Fee of 2s. by the day for himself and sixpence by the day for the Wages and fee of one Clerk and also 4s by the day for the diet Boathire & Riding Charges of the said Henry Finch & of his Deputys & Assigns for every day which he or his Deputy or Deputys should be actually Employ’d in the said Service and likewise an Additional yearly fee or Salary of £400. And all other Rights, Powers, Priviledges, Profits and Advantages whatsoever thereunto belonging during his said late Majesty’s Pleasure as by the said recited Letters Patent (relation being thereunto had) may more at large Appear; In which said Office according to the Form of the Statute in such Case made and provided he is continued for the Space of 6 mo.ths from the time of the demise of his said late Majesty unless he shall by Us be sooner Removed & Discharged from the said Office Now know ye that We have revoked & determined and by these Presents do Revoke and Determine the said recited Letters Patent and every Clause Article & thing therein Contained, and him the said Henry Finch We do remove and discharge from the said Office by these Presents And further know ye that We of Our Especial Grace certain knowledge and meer Motion Have Given & Granted & by these Presents Do Give and Grant unto Our Trusty & Wellbeloved Thomas Worsley Esqr. the Office of Surveyor of Our Works within Our Tower of London and in all and singular Our Honours, Castles, Lordships and Manors which We usually reserve for Our Repair and Abode or which We in time to come shall Appoint for Our Repair and Abode; and him the said Thomas Worsley Surveyor of all and singular Our aforesaid Works We do make ordain & constitute by these Presents To have hold Exercise & Enjoy the said Office unto the said Thomas Worsley by himself or his sufficient Deputy or Deputys (such Deputy of Deputys to be first Approved of by the Commrs. of Our Treasury or Our High Treasurer for the time being) together with all & singular Rights Powers Priviledges, Profits Commodities Wages Fees Salaries and Advantages whatsoever to the said Office of Surveyor of the Works aforesaid belonging or on any wise Appertaining during Our Pleasure in as ample manner & form as he the said Henry Finch or any other Person or Persons have or hath held exercised or enjoy’d or ought to have held Exercised or Enjoyed the same And We do also by these Presents of Our further especial Grace, Give and Grant unto the said Thomas Worsley in and for Exercising the Office aforesaid the Wages & Fee of 2s. by the day for himself, and for the Wages & Fees of one Clerk to serve in the said under him the said Thomas Worsley sixpence by the day To have and Yearly receive & take the sd. Wages and Fee of 2s. by the day for himself and sixpence a day for his Clerk to the said Thomas Worsley or his Assigns during Our Pleasure out of the Treasure remaining or being from time to time in the Receipts of Our Exchequer applicable to the Uses of Our Civil Government by the hands of the Commrs. of Our Treasury or Our High Treasurer Chancr and under Treasurer of Our Exchequer now and for the time being at the four most usual Feasts or Terms in the Year that is to say the Feasts of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist; St Michael the Archangel; yhe birth of Our Lord Christ; And the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: The first Payment thereof to commence & be Computed from the date of these Our Letters Patent unto and for the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary next ensuing & from thence the subsequent Payments to be made Quarterly at the Feasts Aforesaid during Our Pleasure. And We have also Given and Granted and by these Presents Do give and grant unto the said Thomas Worsley for the Diet Boathire & Riding Charges of him the said Thoms. Worsley his Deputies & Assigns as hath been accustomed four shillings of lawfull Money of Great Britain by the day for every day he or his Deputy or Deputies shall be actually Employed in the said Service To have hold and yearly receive the same unto the said Thomas Worsley his Deputy or Deputies or Assigns & to be Paid by the hands of the Paymaster for the time being that shall pay the Books of the Works during Our Pleasure And for the further Encouragement of the said Thomas Worsley diligently to attend the Execution of the said Office of Surveyor and to inspect regulate & reform the Business in Our Office of the Works for Our Profit and Advantage of Our further and especial Grace certain knowledge and meer Motion We have Given & Granted and by these Presents Do Give and Grant unto the said Thoms. Worsley the yearly Fee or Salary of £400 being the same as was Granted to the said henry Finch by the above recited Letters Patent in Addition to the several Wages, Fees, Salaries and the other Advantages which he is to have and receive; The said additional yearly Fee or Salary of £400 to be paid and payable unto hi by the hands of the Paymaster of Our Works for the time being during Our Pleasure & to be inserted and paid from the day of the date of these Our Letters patent in the monthly Books of the Expence of Our said Office of Works in like manner as other the Salaries to Officers of Our Works are in the said Books inserted and paid And Our further Will and Pleasure is and We do hereby direct Require & Demand the said Thomas Worsley from time to time to follow and obey such good Orders as are already made or as shall be thought meet hereafter to be Established by Us or the Commrs. of Our Treasury or Our High Treasurer for the time being for Reformation of Disorders and Surcharges in the Office of the said Works and for the Order of all other Our Officers appertaining to the said Works And lastly We do by these Presents Declare & Grant that these Our Lettters Patent or the Inrollment or Exemplification thereof shall be in and by all Things good firm valid and Sufficient and effectual in the Law according to the true intent and meaning thereof notwithstanding the not fully or truly reciting the said recited Letters Patent or the date thereof or any other Omission Imperfection Defect matter cause of thing whatsoever to the Contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding. In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent Witness Our Self at Westminster 15th day of Decr. In the 1st Year of Our Reign.

By Writt of Privy Seal – Cocks

Painters

While the list of costs for masons detailed by the Board of Works extends to over a hundred different jobs, that for painters is a bit simpler. Government rates were listed in “Contract Prices 1734—1774” (WORK 5/148). The page for painters has a number of additions and marginal notations added over the years; those are ignored here and I just reproduce the basic list of activities.

The list is interesting both for the prices the government was willing to pay for different jobs in the 1730s, but also as detailing what kinds of work they expected painters to do.  The Office of Works was in charge of the royal residences and the types of painting work that were used for a palace were not necessarily a reflection of everyday practices.

The most senior position to do with painting was the office of Sergeant Painter, held by William Hogarth from 1757 until his death in 1764. The office had a nominal salary of just £10 a year, but Hogarth himself claimed that he made more than £200 a year from it, and he had a deputy to oversee the actual work carried out.

s d
Pearl Colour three times done in Oyl per Yard 0.8
Ditto twice done per yard in Oyl 0.6
Wainscot Stone Lead & Cream Colour thrice done in Oyl per Yd 0.8
Ditto twice done per Yard 0.6
Green thrice done in Oyl per Yard 1.0
Ditto twice done Per Yard 0.9
Marble Wallnutt tree &c thrice done in Oyl per Yard 1.8
Varnishing Wainscot per Yard 0.9
Gilding per foot Superficial 4.0
Sash Treatment thrice done on one Side, Each 1.3
Sash Squares ditto on one Side, Each 0.1½
Window lights thrice done on one Side, Each 0.4
Sash Frames twice done on one Side Each 0.10
Sash Squares ditto on one Side, Each 0.1
Window Lights twice done on one Side, Each 0.3
Window Barrs Shutter Barrs &c per barr 0.1
Casements on both Sides Each 0.3½
Cleaning old Painting per Yard 0.1
Painting in Size per Yard 0.3